Featured Image – Earth From Space – a NASA public domain image from;
Has been reestablished and produced mixed results with tomatoes, zuchinis, basil, chillies and a nice beginning supply of two varieties of plums. It’s a long process of learning and trial and error. During the hot summer it was debateable whether the value of home grown vegies outweighed the extra water that was required to keep them alive.
This is a levy that we pay on top of our electricity bill that enables us to have 100% of the electricity we use in our home to be sourced from renewable sources.
Climate Action Rally
This was a huge worldwide event with thousands at the Canberra venue of Old Parliament House and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
2 POSM work parties
POSM is the landcare group for the southern Murrumbidgee River catchment area in Canberra. On two work parties we planted trees, maintained drainage channel gabiens, transplanted wetland plants and carried out some erosion control. This group has been active in the area for more than 10 years and has achieved some outstanding results.
Honeysuckle Crag – Namadgi
½ day doing cliffcare tasks and ½ day climbing.
Many popular climbing areas have groups which take on cliffcare tasks – Arapiles, Blue Mountains etc. Typical tasks are track work, erosion control in descent gullies and rebolting routes with safer technology. Along with a good sized group from Canberra Climbers Association we worked in the morning then climbed in the afternoon. Charles and I climbed the classic of the crag, a 3 pitch route with a nice corner system then a run out slab followed by a steep wall to a final crack system. Deep Space/Sickle linkup.
Photo – Nidibranch – by Talis Didcott
Following the rally I went straight home and penned an article for the Australian Education Union magazine for teachers. Here it is
The Reef, The Union and You
Excitement is at fever pitch as the boat pulls away from shore. Finally after all the prep at college, days of driving, food shopping, packing, unpacking the bus and then more unpacking and packing the boat the last leg of the long journey is upon us. The first view of the island is fabulous. It’s the paradise island of all our imaginations. As the boat turns inside the outer reef and enters the lagoon I am once again overcome with emotion – the colour of the water, 18 students eyes try to take it all in, they point and jump up and down and hug each other not believing it can be true that they are here and about to spend a week on this island, a turtle swims off. It’s just stunning and overwhelming that a place could be so beautiful.
Thirteen times I’ve taken Lake Ginninderra College students to Lady Musgrave Island. Each time I have to pinch myself to know that the school (2 weeks away), the parents and students (costs about $1100) and the Department (Mandatory Procedures and Risk Management) are supportive of this excursion. We snorkel and scuba dive the reef, swimming on every dive with green turtles, searching for clown fish on bommies at the drop off and marveling at the corals and diverse life forms. We’ve listened to whalesong underwater, observed turtles mating in the shallows, frolicked in delighted frenzy with manta rays and seen reef sharks cruise the depths. Out of water the island is an incredibly rich bird sanctuary, at sunset each day we have solitude time on the beach and write, at night the sky is brilliant as shooting stars blaze. At lucky times we lie still in the sand deep into the night and witness the struggle of turtle mothers as they drag themselves up the beach, dig their nest holes and finally sometimes lay their eggs. For the students the whole experience is consistently the best thing they have ever done in their lives. They develop a deep love for the place and feel a strong sense of kinship with the other forms of life they share their island with. They begin to understand our Great Barrier Reef.
As teachers we face a great dilemma in deciding how and when to educate about environmental issues. In my view it is a high level intellectual and emotional process to have a deep attachment to a place without having some sort of direct connection. We may also not want to leave younger students feeling responsible for problems over which they have little power to influence.
The problems for The Reef are immense. At a recent symposium in Canberra on “The Future of Coral Reefs” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, one of the principal authors of the IPCC Report on Climate Change summarised the current situation in 9 numbers.
- 1,000,000 – the minimum number of species in a coral reef.
- 6,000,000,000 – the dollar value of the Great Barrier Reef in tourism and fishing to the QLD/Australian economy (every year).
- 14,000,000 – the number of recreational visitors annually to the Great Barrier Reef.
- 50 – the percentage of coral lost since the 1980s.
- 4 – the number of main threats to the Great Barrier Reef.
Water Quality and Overfishing – both of these have easy fixes – controlling development and having good management processes.
Ocean Acidification – caused by the absorption of CO2 by the water causing changes to the ocean chemistry
- 2 – the number of degrees of warming above the preindustrial average where most corals on the planet will suffer major bleaching
- 500 – the number of megatons more of CO2 we can put into the atmosphere before we reach catastrophe beyond 2 degrees warming.
- 35 – the number of megatons of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere each year.
- 14 – Ove’s last number (in 2014). If you divide 500 by 35 you get 14 which is now the number of years at present rate of CO2 output we have left. Only 14! To turn things round to save the Reef!
So as teachers what can we do?
Go to the Reef yourself and build your own relationship with it. It’s hard to find the best places so here are a few starters. The Capricorn Bunker Group is the closest. Heron Island is the luxury option. Lady Eliot is a fly in middle range resort. North West Island has camping with showers and some facilities while Lady Musgrave is the classic coral cay island with just a composting toilet. In the Witsundays camp for a few days at Whitehaven Beach, Crayfish Bay, Maureens Cove or all three which can be accessed by water taxi. All these places are beautiful islands with wonderful underwater environments. Bookings can be difficult in QLD holidays.
Carbon offset your car, your house, your lifestyle etc using an organisation like Climate Friendly.
Join the AEU campaign to divest from banks that fund fossil fuel mining especially coal.
Walk, cycle, take the bus etc, etc when you can.
Finally take your students to the Reef after you are familiar with it. Or take them to our own piece of ocean paradise Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay to start their rich first hand experience of the ocean environment. Help older students calculate their carbon footprint on these excursions and offset it together as they learn to understand the connections between their actions and the environment.
On our last day on the island I gaze out across the lagoon in the late afternoon light. A turtle periscopes its head for air and a look around. It’s very hard not to anthropomorphise and wonder if s/he’s asking me a question.
Ove Hoegh-Guldberg – one of the principal authors of the IPCC Report on Climate Change, presenter “The Future of Coral Reefs” symposium, Canberra, 3/7/14
Example carbon offset company – Climate Friendly http://www.climatefriendly.com/
Leading climate action organisation http://350.org.au/
I went to a rally organised by 350.org about pressuring the Commonwealth Bank to divest from coal mining which may have a devastating effect on the Great Barrier Reef. There was a good crowd and a person from the education union gave an inspiring address. We were stopped from entering Westfield Belconnen by security. This was in spite of lots of the group wanting to go into the bank branch as customers and give a letter to the staff. Amazingly the bank shut its doors as well. It seemed the shopping center and the bank were very worried about negative publicity. The group had the high moral ground and was peaceful and respectful. A series of further actions are being organised.
Whenever I go into the bush I now take a plastic bag dedicated to rubbish collection. I hate picking up tissues but sticks like toothpicks help. Also lots of people think orange and mandarin peels are ok but they take 7 years or so to break down totally.
Photos from a daywalk on Mt Tennant near Canberra.
Carbon offsetting my car for the year cost $124 from Climate Friendly who are a leading company in this field.